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Imperial edict to add honorary titles, 1846, Nguyên dynasty (1802 – 1945), Viet Nam, calligraphy over block-printed design of black dragon on yellow handmade paper,50.5 x 123.0 cm. Dated in Chinese calligraphy, standard script, black ink, « [… 15th January, the 6th year of Thieu Tri [1846]] ». Gift of Andrew and Ann Proctor 2001, 25.2001. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (C) Art Gallery of NewSouth Wales, Sydney

This Imperial edict dates from the Nguyen dynasty when the capital of Vietnam was in Hue. The Emperors of this dynasty admired the Chinese and such edicts were generally written by court officials, ‘nho’, who had passed the Confucian system of examinations. (This examinations system existed in Vietnam from 1075 (in the Tran dynasty) until 1919.

This edict is written in Chinese calligraphy, standard script on handmade, yellow paper which according to French reports, could only be used by the sovereign. Such edicts were given to temple to grant additional titles to the local deities.

The translation of the edict (provided by Dr Li Tana from the Department of History and Politics of the University of Wollongong) read:

« This edict is to add three honorary titles to the First Class deity who defended the country in Tam Giang (the crossroads of three rivers). The three titles being: Yen Nghia, Chieu Linh and Hien Liet. The deity has protected the country and the people and has always responded to the people’s prayer to him. This grant is following the award granted to him by my father, the Emperor Than To (Minh Mang r. 18201840), who on his fiftieth birthday, issued an edict to honour all the [important] deities in the country. Now that I recall this, with deep respect to my father, I am adding three honorary titles to the deity. The work of keeping the deity’s temple will be carried out by the Yen Tu village, Dong Ngan county as usual. Please Deity, be with us so that my people will be protected by thee. 15th January, the 6th year of Thieu Tri (1846). »

Asian Art Department 2001